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Health & Fitness

No need for veterans to enroll in Healthcare Marketplace

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Published:   |   Updated: September 23, 2013 at 11:03 AM

Military veterans who earned health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs won’t see changes to their policies come 2014.

The U.S. Census Bureau includes more than 252,000 veterans from Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties in its 2010 tally. And many are enrolled in and rely on the VA system’s health care system for medical services.

So it’s no surprise that The Tampa Tribune and TBO.com Healthcare Q&A has received a number of questions about how the Affordable Care Act will affect the insurance veterans earned for serving in the nation’s military.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has launched a media campaign and a website aimed at clearing any confusion.

We answered a couple of questions below, and you can contact us with other questions related to the new law at www.tbo.com/healthcare/qa.

Q: I am a veteran and receive healthcare at Tampa’s James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital. Will I be required under the Affordable Care Act to purchase health insurance?

— Ward from Tampa

Q: I’m currently getting my health care via the VA. Does that exempt me from having to get “Obamacare?”

— Jack from Hudson

Answer: Veterans are an important part of our community, and Tampa’s James A. Haley and St. Petersburg’s Bay Pines are two of the nation’s busiest Veterans Administration hospitals.

The men and women being treated there, or at any other place within the VA health care system, do not have to enroll for the Healthcare Marketplace, or exchange, according to an August update from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

That includes those covered by the Veterans health care program, VA Civilian Health and Medical Program (CHAMPVA), spina bifida health care benefits program or TRICARE.

“If you are enrolled in VA health care, you do not need to take any additional steps to meet the health care law coverage standards,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said in a statement.

A website, www.va.gov/aca, has been set up to clarify questions veterans may have about the Affordable Care Act. That includes explaining that there will be no change to benefits or out-of-pocket costs in 2014.

An estimated 8.3 million American veterans were enrolled in the VA health system in 2010, making more than 80 million outpatient visits at facilities, including Haley and Bay Pines. But the agency estimates another 1.3 million eligible veterans are without health insurance.

Veterans who meet the eligibility requirements are being urged to apply now, before the Jan. 1 deadline that requires most Americans to have health coverage.

“VA encourages eligible Veterans who are not enrolled in VA’s health care system to take advantage of the world-class care we provide to the men and women who have served this Nation in uniform,” Shinseki said in a statement.

To apply for VA health care, visit www.va.gov/healthbenefits/enroll, call (877) 222-8387, or visit a local VA health care facility. There is no enrollment fee, monthly premium or deductible for this coverage. Some veterans have out-of-pocket costs for co-payments, treatments or medications, according to the VA health system website.

Veterans who do not qualify for the system and do not have access to affordable health insurance through a job or relative can apply for a policy on the health care exchange at www.healthcare.gov.

mshedden@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7365

Twitter: @MaryShedden

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